The morning after he ordered airstrikes to knock out chemical-weapons facilities in Syria, President Trump kicked off his Saturday tweeting with a phrase that has long been synonymous with American foreign-policy failure:
“Mission Accomplished” is, of course, closely associated with American hubris in the Iraq War. The phrase was displayed on a giant banner as President George W. Bush declared major combat operations in the country over, during a speech on an aircraft carrier in May 2003. Though never spoken aloud by Bush, “mission accomplished” became an albatross for the president as insurgent forces began their ascent in the country and the war turned into an extended quagmire.
At least one former Bush official, press secretary Ari Fleischer, weighed in on Trump’s echoing of his former boss:
President Trump claimed over and over during the 2016 campaign, despite copious evidence to the contrary, that he had opposed the Iraq War. He even invoked Bush’s infamous speech during a February 2016 news conference, saying, “You had him on the aircraft carrier saying all sorts of wonderful things, how the war was essentially over. Guess what, not over. And, you know, the war with Iraq is a disaster.”
He has continued to rail against the war while in office, and his supposed aversion to becoming entangled in unwinnable foreign conflicts led him to declare, just a few days ago, that he wanted to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria.
Is Trump really unaware of “Mission Accomplished”s history and implications? Or is he just demonstrating that no matter what ahistorical thing he says, no matter how ignorant he demonstrates himself to be, no matter how much he contradicts himself, he’ll still be labeled presidential for ordering an airstrike, while retaining an approval rating in the high 30s?
It’s probably the first one, but there’s really no way of knowing.